Environment Forum

from Raw Japan:

Mercedes? No thanks, I’ll take a hybrid

VOLKSWAGEN-LAW/“I hope the next three months will be better for you than the last three," Czech ambassador Jaromir Novotny told a gathering of Japanese car importers last month.

The way things are going, he'll be hoping against hope.

In April, Japan introduced an “eco-car” tax incentive that has left all foreign car brands such as Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and BMW, neatly outside the fence of eligibility.

It’s the last thing they need in a market that’s already full of quirks that make life difficult for non-Japanese car brands: the existence of a huge and unique 660cc microcar segment, convoluted recycling laws and stringent regulations against what type of materials can be used in fuel tanks, to name just a few.

No one is complaining about incentivising low-emission cars. But what rankles outsiders is that the perks are based on an outdated fuel economy testing method that critics say is a poor reflection of real-life driving.

“It’s so far from reality that we never bothered to tune our cars to get good readings under this method,” an executive at a European carmaker told me. “And now they’ve hit us with this eco-car tax and even if we wanted to make the adjustments, it would take us until next year to be ready.”

VW on electric cars: “Please, lower your expectations”

Volkswagen’s U.S. chief ruffled some entrepreneurial feathers on Thursday when he told a group of business school students at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management that  it will be 35 years before electric cars make up a significant portion of the world’s auto market.

During his prepared remarks, Volkswagen Group of America CEO Stefan Jacoby outlined the German automaker’s view that fossil fuels and traditional combustion engines will be with us for many years to come. VW, however, is committed to making them vastly more fuel efficient. The company is also investing heavily in so-called clean diesel technology, which reduces tailpipe emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gases while still giving cars their “fun-to-drive” pep.

“At Volkswagen we are taking a long-term and a short-term approach, and the short-term approach is not electric vehicles,” Jacoby said. “We can have cars on the road that have fuel consumption of 50, 60, 70 miles per gallon. That can happen in the next ten years.”

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